Tag Archives: cuts

Unison Protest outside Brixton Town Hall

The cuts continue unabated and there was a double whammy of protests outside Lambeth Town Hall last night. Save Lambeth Libraries campaign demonstrated against staff cuts, reduced services and possible closures, while other groups lobbied the council over cuts to children’s services. Here are a few pics:

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A snapshot of Brixton’s library protest

Local resident Rod Smith, librarians Abibat Olulode and Anna Tomlinson

Kaye Wiggins reports from Saturday’s protest against cuts to library services

Abibat Olulode, who works at Brixton library, and Anna Tomlinson, from the library in Streatham, are among a group of around 100 people who staged a protest outside Brixton library yesterday. They say they have no idea what Lambeth council’s spending cuts will mean for the service because they haven’t been told.

“All I know is what I’ve read in the South London Press,” says Abibat. “But it’s obvious that there are going to be big cuts.”

She says she fears the library’s outreach services will be hardest hit by the cuts. “The money we get will be for our core service, so we will have to stop the other work,” she says. “This means things like literacy development activities, reading groups and programmes to help refugees. These services are for the more vulnerable people yet they’re being hit the hardest. That’s why we’re here to protest.”

The deputy leader of Lambeth Council, Jackie Meldrum, visited the library on the morning of the protest, but Abibat says this wasn’t enough to reassure the protesters. “I didn’t hear her, but I expect she just said what she always says – that we have to blame the cuts on the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the government,” she says.

“I think she’s wrong about that. The council shouldn’t be complicit in finding mealy-mouthed ways to make these cuts. It should stand up to the government and demand more money.”

Rod Smith, a retired Unison member and a regular user of Brixton library, says he is worried about the council’s plans to transfer responsibility for running libraries to community groups, who would make greater use of volunteers to run the service.

“If you want libraries to be run properly, you need paid, trained staff,” he says. “Why should people’s public services be run by volunteers?

“The council is the biggest employer in Lambeth. It is setting a bad example by saying to other employers that it’s ok to let people work for free instead of paying professionals.”

Abibat points out that she has a masters degree in information service management. “How many of the volunteers will have that qualification?” she says. “They won’t, and they’ll quit when the work gets tough.”


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Revolutionary Brixton

Lots of protesting to be done in Brixton in the coming weeks – mostly organised by Lambeth Save our Services and UK Uncut. Please add other events in the comments below and I’ll update as I go:

Saturday 5 Feb: Lambeth Save Our Services will be joining the National Day of Action to Defend Libraries outside Brixton Library in Windrush Square. Sign the petition to save Lambeth Libraries against the cuts here.

Monday 7 Feb: Lambeth Save Our Services again. This time they’ll be protesting against the budget cuts at 6pm outside Lambeth Town Hall, while the council cabinet meets inside.

Wednesday 23 Feb: It’s the day the council decides the budget. Expect demonstrators en masse.




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Lambeth By Numbers

The stats from last night’s Scrutiny Committee:


Amount the council says it will save in 2011/12 through “efficiency savings”


Amount the council will cut from frontline services in 2011/12


Number of posts in the council’s communications team that have been made redundant. The number of full-time equivalent posts has fallen from 43 to 20


Number of posts in the council’s policy, equalities and performance team that have been made redundant. The number of full-time equivalent posts has fallen from 43 to 25


Amount cut from the council’s human resources budget for 2011/12. Last year the budget was £2.8m

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Lambeth Council Scrutiny Committee

Kaye Wiggins reports from last night’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Lambeth Council – councillors, parent governors and church representatives meet to publicly hold Lambeth’s decision-makers to account

Lambeth’s policing, schools, housing, care services and back-to-work programmes will be protected from the council’s £79m in spending cuts, council leader Steve Reed told councillors last night.

At a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee, Reed said the council must save £79m over the next three years because of cuts in its funding from central government. It would announce its final plans for doing this on 23 February, he said.

Reed said he had identified the five areas as priorities that needed to be sheltered from spending cuts.

In practice, he said, this meant the council would make sure there were 100 extra police officers on the beat in 2011/12. It would retain its funding for police community support officers, targeted youth services and support for victims of domestic violence, he said.

Reed also said the council would not change its eligibility criteria for care services and would protect funding for schools, housing and employment services.

“We have saved £24m through efficiency savings,” he said. “To do this we have hollowed out our back office so much that there must be a risk about our ability to deliver frontline services.”

“We can’t protect all vulnerable people, but we’ve chosen to protect the most vulnerable people.”

Reed confirmed that the council would not cut the pay, sick leave and holiday entitlements of council staff. “It is not worth being aggressive with our staff when they are already going through immense pain,” he said.

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Lambeth Primary Schools and cuts

Primary school league tables for Lambeth were published yesterday. The BBC explains how to read the tables here. It’s interesting to note that 15 Lambeth schools boycotted Sats this year in opposition to the way the data is compiled into league tables, with many claiming that the focus on Sats is to the expense of teaching the broader curriculum. Nationally, faith schools have performed the best and that’s the case in Lambeth too, with Corpus Christi and St John the Divine schools showing the highest average point scores.

And it was announced this week that Lambeth council will have 8.72% cut from its budget, exluding NHS funding for 2011/12. See here for Londonist’s very useful map. And here for Cllr Pete Robbins’ explanation of how the cuts will affect Lambeth.

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Cllr Peter Robbins: The Impact of the Cuts

Lambeth Labour Councillor Peter Robbins gives us his verdict on the coalition cuts and how they’ll affect us

Last week, the Coalition Government released their spending plans for the next four years. Plenty of attention has been paid to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in the media, but it’s not always easy to see exactly how it will affect your area, your neighbours, and the public services you rely on. So I suggested I write this article for Brixton Blog readers to try to do just that – work out how the CSR is likely to impact on Lambeth.

I’m a Labour councillor in Lambeth, so will inevitably attract comments claiming I’m biased (and I am). But I’ll try my best just to stick to the facts. Likewise, this is not the place to rehearse the arguments for or against the decision to cut spending so deeply, or who will be most affected – that’s been done plenty of times elsewhere.

The CSR covers every pound of taxpayers’ money to be spent by the Government, either nationally or locally, over the next three years. I’m going to ignore the ‘national’ decisions on defence, international development, transport etc – and focus on what the CSR means for your streets, home, schools, and safety.

So let’s start with the three major announcements made in social housing – an issue of huge importance to Lambeth. Firstly, the cap in housing benefit –  this will impact on about 5,400 households in Lambeth (mostly in private rented accommodation). It is worth noting that only 20% of people who receive HB are on Jobseekers Allowance – the disabled, workers on low incomes, and the elderly will be affected most (two thirds of the 30,000 Lambeth council tenants receive some level of HB). Lambeth’s Cllr Lib Peck last week gave evidence to a House of Commons committee on this subject on behalf of London Councils (watch it here).

Secondly, the CSR saw huge cuts to housing capital – including cutting Decent Homes funding by about a third (about £80m less for Lambeth). Only 40,000 new council homes a year will be built nationally – despite a waiting list of 500,000 in London alone.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly given that 30,000 households in Lambeth are in social housing, George Osborne announced that new social housing tenants would have to pay 80% of market rents – that could see social housing rents in North Lambeth rise from £80 a week to £250 a week.

It’s a pretty bleak picture for residents in Lambeth – and the Government has already admitted there are likely to be increased levels of homelessness, overcrowding, and sub-standard housing.

In education, the headline ‘good news’ of the CSR was that schools budgets would be protected, and a new ‘pupil premium’ would be introduced. Unfortunately this is already unravelling, and it is likely that many Lambeth schools could see their funding cut. Hopefully this will become clearer over the coming weeks, but whatever happens local schools will also be affected by a likely reduction in services provided by the council (social care, pupil places, special needs support etc) as a result of the local government cuts.

In higher education,  the swingeing cuts of 40% in favour of student contributions and the removal of the tuition fee cap will make a UK degree one of the most expensive in the world – and mean university is simply not an option for young people from low income families. Further education has also been hit, and the Education Maintenance Allowance, relied upon by thousands of young people to fund travel costs to college, will also be scrapped.

In terms of school buildings, Lambeth had over £200m cut from its secondary school building programme in July, though some was restored after the threat of legal action. The CSR saw a further 60% cut from educational capital budgets, despite a growing shortage of primary school places (expected to hit 28,000 in London by 2014) that is particularly acute in south Lambeth. If anything is giving Michael Gove sleepless nights it is surely this.

Crime and community safety continues to be the number one priority for Lambeth residents. The CSR saw local police budgets cut by 20% – but it is unclear what this means for uniformed police officers and the highly valued Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and it is fair to say that this will be a political football for some time, until each local force has set out their plans to deal with the cuts. However it is likely that Lambeth will again be hit much harder than other areas.

And what of Lambeth Council itself, responsible for delivering a huge number of local services? About 90% of the council’s funding comes from central government (only 10% of Lambeth’s funding derives from council tax) so the council is hugely dependent on the decisions made by the government. The very breadth of responsibility held by councils mean that cuts made elsewhere also impact directly on the council. For instance, Lambeth will have to pick up the pieces of benefit changes by providing temporary accommodation for people made homelessness, and any cuts to police activity could see more antisocial behaviour. Increased poverty will see more demand placed on key services provided for vulnerable people.

Overall, it’s fair to say the cuts were as bad as anyone had expected, and are much greater than those being borne by any national government department. Instead of the 25% cuts that the council was predicting, councils will now face cuts of 28.4% on average over four years.  Lambeth is also a ‘floor authority’ which means your council will be even harder hit than other authorities (such as Wandsworth). That means about £90m out of a total of £310m will be cut from the budget.

The really bad news only slipped out later – instead of the cuts being spread in equal instalments over the four years as the Chancellor announced in his statement, the cuts are actually being frontloaded.  For Lambeth that will mean having to make cuts of £40m next year instead of the £20m we were expecting. Independent commentators have described councils as having been ‘singled out’ for attention – so that the coalition can spread the blame when the cuts start to be felt.

Of course, one person’s ‘cuts’ are another’s ‘savings’, and every pound that can be ‘saved’ means a pound less in cuts. In Lambeth £35m of savings were made in the last four years without affecting frontline services, but the more waste that is eliminated the harder it is to identify further savings. The council is actively pursuing opportunities to save back office costs by sharing services with neighbouring boroughs Southwark and Lewisham, and other public sector bodies such as the NHS. There is a great deal of national interest in Lambeth’s Cooperative Council Commission due to report in December – which should generate proposals to transform the way some services are run by engaging communities and service users more closely, generating cost efficiencies and enabling Lambeth to do more with less.

But the bottom line is that government cuts of almost 30% cannot realistically be absorbed without affecting frontline council services. With £90m less to spend, councillors now have the difficult task of deciding where and how those cuts will fall.



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